Eisenberg: No Easy Fix to Run Game

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"I'd say that would be the No. 1 thing we need to focus on," Harbaugh said of the running game.

That might seem in conflict with the team's decision to use its first-round pick on a defensive player, but taking cornerback Jimmy Smith was the right move; the defense hasn't been infused with first-round talent since 2006.

Taking receiver Torrey Smith in the second round also was fine because he filled a key need and the Ravens had him marked as a first-round talent.

But whenever pro football resumes normal operations, the Ravens need to focus on improving their running game.

What happened to it? You can't answer with a single, simple sentence. When Michael Oher was shifted from right tackle to left and Jared Gaither went down with a back injury, it meant three of the five linemen were playing new positions. Marshal Yanda had to be switched from his preferred guard slot to right tackle, and utility-man Chris Chester had to come off the bench and start in Yanda's old slot.

Oher didn't play as well on the other side, center Matt Birk had a sore knee late in the year, and between all that and the new lineup, the same holes just didn't consistently materialize.

There has been speculation about Oher moving back to the right side, but when the Ravens drafted tackle Jah Reid in the third round, they said he was a right-side guy, a run-blocking specialist, and would contend for a starting spot right away. In other words, Oher will stay on the left side, and someone else will play right tackle, enabling Yanda to go back to guard, where Harbaugh wants him.

But the current right-tackle candidates all come with question marks attached. Reid is a rookie. Gaither is coming off a serious injury, might be a free agent and might have exhausted his lives with the Ravens. Yanda, the fallback position, also might be a free agent.

The Ravens also need to get their backfield in order. Will they bring back fullback Le'Ron McClain or let him leave via free agency, knowing any new guy probably won't block as well as the fierce McClain? And will they bring back Willis McGahee at his high salary? If not, they had better find someone who can back up Ray Rice and capably handle a decent ball-carrying load.

See what I mean? There are all sorts of issues and moves to weigh, jagged edges that need to somehow fit into a finished jigsaw puzzle.

It's going to be a process, as opposed to a one-stop-shopping fix.

John Eisenberg *covers the Ravens for Comcast SportsNet Baltimore. He worked in the newspaper business for 28 years as a sports columnist, with much of that time coming at the Baltimore Sun. While working for the Sun, Eisenberg spent time covering the Ravens, among other teams and events, including the Super Bowl, Final Four, World Series and Olympics. Eisenberg is also the author of seven sports-themed books.*

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